Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Afghan refugee murder grieves me, sickens me


Last Saturday morning I felt so sick when I read the headlines in the Christchurch Press that a Taxi driver was murdered early that morning. When I read on and found out that he was a refugee from Afghanistan whose Hazara tribe, the Taliban had tried to wipe out, This was genocide of the worst possibnle kind. Abdhurahman Ikhtiari was a 39 year old father of five young children. I worked in Afghanistan for many years and know the Hazara tribe, who are descendents of Genghis Khan. They are fine, hardworking people. My most trustworthy friend in Afghanistan was an Hazara, Moheb, who saved my life countless times, by predicting where fighting was likely to break out, thus avoiding dangerous predicaments. He, like Abdhuerahman, was a driver.

The bloody circumstances he escaped from in Afghanistan and the long and controversial boat journey that eventually brought him to New Zealand, is a remarkable epic of human fortitude and hope. New Zealand opened its arms to him. To the two young men who murdered him, I ask them to think it through. To be persecuted in your own country and see your familiy and neighbours butchered, to survive a long boat journey not knowing where you might end up, to bring your six family members up with dignity, to drive a taxi tobring money home and learn English in the little spare time you have. You guys murdered someone who has been to hell and back. What was in your minds ? I would like to come and talk to you and teach you about Afghanistan and their wonderful people. I know you can earn forgiveness. But do you have foregiveness in you ?

Ikhtiari was among 141 refugees accepted by New Zealand from the Norwegian freighter Tampa.
The Tampa became the centre of international controversy in August 2001 when its captain picked up 430 asylum seekers from a sinking boat off the coast of Australia.
The Australian government refused to let the refugees land and they were sent to Nauru instead.
A family friend and fellow taxi driver Baryalai Waziri told the Sunday Star-Times Ikhtiari arrived in May 2002 and had spent a month in the refugee resettlement camp in Mangere, Auckland, before moving to Christchurch with his family.
They had fled Afghanistan because they were members of the Hazari ethnic minority persecuted under the Taliban regime.
Ikhtiari had spent the first couple of years in Christchurch studying English and doing part-time factory work to support his wife and five children, aged seven to 16.
About a year ago he had started driving cabs at night for United Taxis.
He often felt intimidated by drunken and aggressive customers.
Ikhtiari's cousin, Mohammad Ikhtiari, said his family was distraught at the senseless killing.
Ikhtiari's wife and sister had not stopped crying since being informed of his death.
He is angry that police appeared to have ignored previous complaints about the behaviour Afghani taxi drivers in Christchurch are subjected to.
Liz Smyth, who has close ties with Christchurch's Afghani community, said many of the men worked as taxi drivers despite having good qualifications because they needed immediate work so they could support their families.
They worked long hours and often opted to drive at night because they could earn more money.
One Afghani taxi driver had been threatened with a screwdriver, another had had passengers refuse to get in his car when they discovered his nationality.

"A lot of the abuse is based on ignorance," Smyth said.
"These people are very vulnerable and there needs to be a bit more protection really."
Ikhtiari is the second Tampa refugee who settled in Canterbury to die in tragic circumstances.
Rahmatullah Qambari, 23, drowned in the Waimakariri River, north of Christchurch, on January 02, 2004.

The initial report said:


Abdulrahman Ikhtiari, 39 was found lying near his taxi with a single stab wound to his chest about 1am yesterday.
Police and ambulance staff tried frantically to save him but he died at the scene.
Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Johnson said witnesses reported seeing two men running from Ikhtiari's taxi immediately after the stabbing.
Johnson said it did not appear that robbery was the motive for the attack but would not speculate whether the stabbing was racially motivated.
Ikhtiari had wounds on his body that could be defensive.
"This man... is going about his lawful business, operating a taxi and he's been tragically attacked by two assailants which has caused his death.
" The men, believed to be Ikhtiari's passengers, were heading east towards Fitzgerald Ave.
They were both about 1.8m, with dark skin and short dark hair.
One was wearing a dark top and trousers and a white bandana or cap, the other was wearing a white top and dark trousers. No calls for help were made on Mr Ikhtiari's car radio, Radio New Zealand reported.



Yesterday, Tuesday 9 December. A 16-year-old wiped away tears as he appeared in Christchurch Youth Court today charged with the murder of Abdulrahaman Ikhtiari.He is jointly charged with a 19-year-old, both of whom have name suppression, with killing the taxi driver on December 6.In a brief appearance before Judge Jane McMeeken, the 16-year-old did not seek bail and will have to spend a night in police cells before a bed will become available in a youth justice facility.The teenager had a number of supporters in the public gallery and several called out to him as he was led away after his appearance, one person shouting "I love you".The 19-year-old also made a brief appearance in the district court and stood impassively in the dock.He also did not seek bail and his name was suppressed until 5pm tomorrow to enable his lawyer Kerry Cook to explore whether there are grounds for extending the name suppression.As the 19-year-old was led from the court a supporter from the public gallery yelled to him "love you, bro".Both teenagers are due to reappear in court on December 23.Last night Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Johnson of Canterbury CIB said police had interviewed the pair after executing search warrants in the Christchurch area which obtained "a number of items of interest to the investigation"."The weapon used in the attack on Mr Ikhtiari, which we believe to have a blade of at least 140mm long and 20mm wide, is still outstanding," Mr Johnson said."Despite the arrest of these two males I still appeal to members of the public who have any information about this crime to contact police."Police yesterday worked to enhance dark and distant images from crime camera footage which appear to show two people leaving the scene where Mr Ikhtiari was stabbed to death in Christchurch early on Saturday morning.The footage shows Mr Ikhtiari's United Taxi Co cab arriving at the area in Worcester Street, near the Barbadoes Street corner, and it is stopped there for a few minutes before the people are seen leaving.The images appeared to show two people, Mr Johnson said."It is very dark, at a distance, and there are some lighting issues. We are working with it, and we may be able to develop it further to see if we can see more detail," he told a press conference at the Christchurch Central Police Station.



Yesterday I discovered Ikhtiari's family lives close to me in the Christchurch suburb of Bryndwr. Last night the principle of a local school spoke so warmly about Ikhtiari application to learning English in day classes.

I travelled to 33 of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan during four years I worked in the country. Even during the most ferocious conflict, I was treated with utmost repect by both sides. People gave their last crust of bread to me, sheltered me and made sure I got to the next village safely. It was a country of honour. I weep for an answer. Thank God the people of Christchurch are giving generously to support his family.

14 comments:

Gollum said...

Bob

You can't carry the weight of the world on your shoulders - there is just too much to bear. I have followed the story in the news of the Timaru "manslaughter" with as much despair as you. Timaru has always had that nasty violent edge to it since I was a kid and there has been a litany of killings in that city in my lifetime that would not be out of place in South Central Los Angeles.

Same with the Japanese climber. The Japanese have this incredible ability to conjur epics out of everyday events. I can remember back in the early 80's there were 4 of them killed on the East Face of Cook in a storm. I remember one of the S&R guys telling me that the Japanese had enough hardware for the Harlin Route on the North Face of the Eiger but hardly any warm clothes. Go figure.

None of it makes any sense. The only guy who spoke any sense at all in the last few years was Saddam when he was being hung. "Go to Hell" they said and Saddam replied "Iraq is Hell". He was right. We have managed to create hell on earth and there is sweet all that little guys like us can do about it. But no point despairing.

I'm just back from a week in Nepal. Fantastic mountains and scenerey but crippling poverty and pollution. Guess who else was in town - a 10 man military group from China promising hundreds pf millions of rupees in aid. Another Tibet in the making.

Get those legs right and we can do a trek into Annapurna base Camp together. I'm thinking about end of 2009 - that's if the combined effects of assorted terrorists and other lunatics haven't got to me by then.

Bob McKerrow said...

Thanks Gollum

I have just staggered in from an epic 300 metre walk to the park and back. I am well on the way to recovery. Yes, lets trek into Annapurna base Camp together when my knees are striding it out again. Glad you enjoyed your trip to Nepal. I watch the future with intrest. China and India will be vying for favours.

So you see NZ dark side too. The killing of that innocent Afghan taxi driver, a father of 5 kids, really unbalanced me for a few days. I am OK now. Thanks for your words of support.

Bob

Marja said...

Bob I followed it on TV and I totally agree with you. This is not an issue confined to NZ. You have no idea wat's going on in Europe at the moment. I talk about it with my friend till deep in the night. She sometimes helps refugees and there is so much hate going on at the moment. In the past dutch people were extremely tolerant. Lots have happened and much has changed and things like this happen there as well.
People who do things like this are sick people anyway and they usually put their anger on vulnarable people. We can only counteract this a bit by doing the opposite and sent out love

Bob McKerrow said...

Thanks for your wise words. Y agree, we need to spread messages of love and tolerance. The question is, how can we help the sick people ?

Bob

Marja said...

To help these sick people is very difficult indeed. What is a lot easier is to help children so they don't become sick people.
NZ and others are not very good at that. They have to look at countries as Sweden were they are respected.

Bob McKerrow said...

Yes, I agree with you Marja. We need tghe parents to be caring and loving, the children need to have the love in the home and the teachings in the schoo, and lots of positive role models about.

i ran an outdoor education centre in the Tararuas in the late 80's which aimed at changing behaviour of delinquent teenagers so they didn't end up as murderers and rapists. We had a high success rate but the National Party slashed our funding.

Take care. Bob

Marja said...

What can I say. Another marvelous initiative killed. So frustrating. The government prefers to pay for keeping people in jail wich costs a thousand times more.
Why do we have governments again?

Bob McKerrow said...

Sometimes I think democracy is a luxury we can ill afford.
Benevolent dictors maybe a better alternative, or bring back Royalty.

Have a good night.

Bob

Anonymous said...

How many other innocent people are killed in nz? Just because he's a refugee?

Anonymous said...

Heaps of innocent people are killed in nz. I dont care any extra more because he's a refugee. He was an easy target for scumbags.

Bob McKerrow said...

Dear Anonymous

Many New Zealanders and Australians were economic migrants, refugees, or sent my the best judges in England as convicts.

I don;t think we should be treating one group differently than another. Whether one comes as an immigrant or a refugee, they should be treated with the same dignity and respect. Take care. Bob

Anonymous said...

I havent read the rest of you blog but have you written an article for every unjust murder victim in nz?

Like the man who was stabbed randomly on his birthday?

It seems you think because he is a refugee he is a bigger victim than others.

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